(14) Clemson (6-1) at Wake Forest (4-3)|
Thursday, October 25, 7:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 14th-ranked Clemson Tigers begin a two-game road trip through
the ACC, as they invade Winston-Salem on Thursday night for league action
against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Dabo Swinney's Tigers are still very much in the hunt for the conference
crown, as the defending ACC champs come into this contest at 6-1 overall and
3-1 in conference play. The team remained a half game behind the Florida State
Seminoles in the Atlantic Division standings, with last week's 38-17 win over
Virginia Tech. The team's lone loss came at Florida State on Sept. 22, but
Clemson has reeled off three wins since then.
Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons have had their ups and downs and as a result, are
just 4-3 overall, including a disappointing 2-3 mark in-conference. Wake
Forest did bring an end to a two-game slide with last weekend's 16-10 win at
Clemson has dominated this series, holding a 59-17-1 advantage all-time. The
Tigers have won three straight meetings and five of the last six overall.
The Tigers were held to a season-low 295 yards against Virginia Tech, but
still found a way to prevail. On the year, Clemson has been much more
explosive, with playmakers at just about every skilled positions. Despite the
modest numbers against the Hokies, Clemson is still averaging just under 500
yards per game (492.9), getting great balance between the run (191.7) and the
Quarterback Tahj Boyd orchestrates the offense, completing 67.1 percent of his
passes, for 1,908 yards and 15 touchdowns. He threw a TD pass and rushed for
two in the win over Virginia Tech. It helps to have a couple of All-American
candidates to throw to. Sammy Watkins was supposed to be the go-to-guy coming
into the season, but he has played second-fiddle to junior DeAndre Hopkins,
who leads the team in receptions (52), receiving yards (845) and TD catches
The ground game is led by tailback Andre Ellington, who has rushed for 693
yards thus far, on 5.1 yards per carry. Ellington has scored seven of the
team's 17 rushing TDs this season.
The Tiger defense has been a step or two behind the offense this season, but
last week, Clemson's stop unit was stellar, including a pair of interceptions
by safety Jonathan Meeks, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
"We improved today," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said following the
win over Virginia Tech. "I'm really happy for the guys. ... We've got good
enough players to play really good, quality defense. And this is the first
time you feel like it wasn't just one quarter, you played well enough for four
quarters to give yourself a chance to win."
Linebacker Anthony Stephone leads the team in tackles (56), followed by fellow
LBs Jonathan Willard (52) and Spencer Shuey (39).
The Demon Deacons have had their problems on the offensive side of the
football in 2012, averaging a modest 316.1 yards per game, struggling with
consistency both on the ground (120.6 ypg) and through the air (195.6 ypg).
Quarterback Tanner Price has really had a tough time of it up to this point,
completing just 50.7 percent of his passes, for 1,327 yards, with seven
touchdowns against four interceptions. A big reason for the struggles is the
loss of standout wide receiver Mike Campanaro (38 receptions, 429 yards, three
With the lack of a vertical threat, tailbacks Josh Harris (432 yards, four
TDs) and Deandre Martin (299 yards, five TDs) have struggled to ignite the
The problem is compounded for Wake Forest by a defense that has had its own
issues. The Demon Deacons are yielding just over 400 yards of total offense
per game, including a generous 183.7 yards rushing.
Junior linebacker Justin Jackson leads the team in tackles (52) as well as
sacks (3). Senior middle linebacker Mike Olson is right behind in terms of
Grobe knows the challenge that Clemson represents.
"They're shooting the lights out offensively," Grobe said at his weekly press
conference. "Virginia Tech did a good job against them last week and slowed
them down a little bit, but their defense stepped up. Their defense has gotten
better every week. Offensively they've got a lot of big-time players at the
skill positions and they've got a good kicking game as well. You just don't
see many weaknesses in them; they've got great talent but they're also very
well coached. We're going to have to play at the top of our game to have a
The Demon Deacons will need to shore up their rush defense in a hurry. Expect
Swinney to feed Ellington the ball early and often with the hope of wearing
down Wake, before striking it big downfield with Boyd, Hopkins and Watkins.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Clemson 37, Wake Forest 17
10/24 10:42:58 ET